“Over the last month I have tried to describe conservative power in Washington, but with a small change of emphasis I could just as well have been describing the failure of liberalism: the center-left’s inability to comprehend the current political situation or to draw upon what is most vital in its own history.
What we have watched unfold for a few decades, I have argued, is a broad reversion to 19th-century political form, with free-market economics understood as the state of nature, plutocracy as the default social condition, and, enthroned as the nation’s necessary vice, an institutionalized corruption surpassing anything we have seen for 80 years…
When you view the world from the satisfied environs of Washington — a place where lawyers outnumber machinists 27 to 1 and where five suburban counties rank among the seven wealthiest in the nation — the fantasies of postindustrial liberalism make perfect sense. The reign of the ‘knowledge workers’ seems noble.
Seen from almost anywhere else, however, these are lousy times. The latest data confirms that as the productivity of workers has increased, the ones reaping the benefits are stockholders. Census data tells us that the only reason family income is keeping up with inflation is that more family members are working.
Everything I have written about in this space points to the same conclusion: Democratic leaders must learn to talk about class issues again. But they won’t on their own. So pressure must come from traditional liberal constituencies and the grass roots, like the much-vilified bloggers…
The more comfortable option for Democrats is to maintain their present course, gaming out each election with political science and a little triangulation magic, their relevance slowly ebbing as memories of the middle-class republic fade.”
Thomas Frank, Rendezvous With Oblivion, NYT 2006
This guest opinion piece from Thomas Frank in 2006 seems particularly prescient in retrospect today. It provided the name for a newly published collection of his essays.
This first video interview below is also reprise, but it is so insightful, so spot on, that I thought it would be useful to bring it back now ahead of the fall elections. It is from that great series of interviews on Reality Asserts Itself.
How soon we forget, with all the distractions and dog and pony shows served up.
Not that the corporate wing of the Democratic Party will listen to reason. The pay is too good, and they will fight to retain their privileges until the bitter end.
They may begin to fake listening to their own broad base, not just the millionaires, more aggressively. They are good at faking concern and feeling your pain while doing very little.
Change will come only as the Progressives turn the party over on its head from the bottom up, at the primary ballot box and the elections.
Obama was a well polished and timid sell-out, from his first 100 days. But Bill and Hillary were venal carnies from the first. I never voted for either of them. But I have family in Arkansas, and their nature was well established back then.
And may have been proto-fascists too, if you remember the two highest profile law enforcement actions of the Clinton administration: Waco and Ruby Ridge.
Obama was not much better if one recalls the brutal way in which dissent was suppressed under him, with the historic use of Espionage Act, and the coordinated crushing of Occupy movement and just about anyone else who stood against him. Like so many verbally acute figures he was given over to paranoid overreach when words failed.
So whenever a hard core Democrat tells me how awful the Trump voters are, and there are some pretty ugly actors in that crowd, and how tragic it is that they failed the country at the polls, I want them to remember this video.
Make no mistake, Trump is embarrassing, and anyone with a view to history can see the damage he is doing with his dilettante, con man’s approach to policy. I forecast that in their anger and frustration people would grab the wrong solution from the shelf, and here it is.
But all things considered, we can thank the arrogant willfulness of Hillary and her corporate stooges for it. The rise of a demagogue almost always owes something to the long term failure of the governing elite.
Thomas Frank has published a new collection of previously published essays titled Rendezvous With Oblivion. The title comes from a column he wrote for the New York Times in 2006.
A video interview of this new book is included below in the second video. The interview is an update on the state of US politics, and the Democratic Party in particular. The book is a thematic collection of previously published columns.
I think he could have done a bit more with the material in terms of updating and showing how what he has previously said, and foretold, is unfolding.
The Democratic establishment and highly placed party functionaries do not want to change— they are dedicated to their own personal power and control, and all about getting paid off first and foremost.
And their greed is killing us.
Thomas Frank discusses his new book, Rendezvous With Oblivion.
And for good measure, here is a specific discussion of the details of the election blunders and fatal complacency fueled by arrogance and disdain for the common people.